SparkCanada Founding Conference Report

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  • 1. Conference ReportOrganizational ConferenceOxford University • St Johnʼs College MCR • July 10th, 2011
  • 2. Dear  friends  of  Spark  Canada, It’s  hard  to  believe  that  it’s  already  been  almost  three  months  since  the  inaugural  ‘SparkCanada’   conference.  We  here  at  the  organizing  commiAee  hope  that  this  intervening  Bme  has  been  both  posiBve   and  producBve  and  that  this  note  finds  you  happy  and  well. As  it’s  been  awhile  since  the  conference,  we  thought  that  you  might  appreciate  a  quick  update  on  how   things  are  progressing.  With  this  purpose  in  mind,  we’ve  put  together  this  document  which  has  three   main  purposes:  first,  for  those  of  you  who  aAended  the  conference  we  wanted  to  officially  thank  you  for   doing  so.  We  found  the  conference  inspiring  in  many  different  ways,  but  especially  in  the  quality  of  the   insights  and  feedback  we  received,  the  enthusiasm  of  the  parBcipants,  and  the  simple  fun  and   enjoyment  that  came  out  of  our  discussions.  We  hope  that  your  experience  was  similarly  posiBve.   Second,  we  thought  it  might  be  useful  to  summarize  the  highlights  and  lessons  learned  during  the   various  sessions  that  took  place  at  the  conference.  To  that  end,  we’ve  summarized  each  session  in  the   pages  below.  Please  have  a  read  and  let  us  know  if  you  think  we’ve  missed  something  important.  For   those  of  you  who  were  unable  to  aAend  the  conference,  we  hope  that  this  document  gives  you  a  sense   of  what  was  discussed  and  an  access  point  for  entering  the  conversaBon  should  you  so  desire. Third,  the  organizing  commiAee  has  spent  much  of  our  Bme  since  the  conference  reflecBng  on  the  ideas   that  emerged  from  the  conference  and,  and  while  this  process  of  reflecBon  is  certainly  not  concluded,   we  are  also  now  beginning  to  move  into  an  acBon  phase.  Indeed,  we’ve  idenBfied  three  primary  tasks   which  we  will  be  tackling  in  the  weeks  and  months  ahead:    (1)  officially  incorporaBng  as  a  non-­‐profit   organizaBon  in  Canada;  (2)  developing  a  ‘minimum  viable  product’  for  use  in  piloBng,  largely  based  on   the  ideas  and  suggesBons  generated  at  the  conference;  and  (3)  iniBaBng  one  or  two  pilot  projects   focussed  on  specific  groups,  likely  high  school  or  undergraduate  university  students.    We  hope  that  many   of  you  will  be  able  to  take  part  and  help  shape  these  iniBaBves  and  we  will  be  in  touch  for  this  purpose   shortly.  Importantly,  if  you  have  not  yet  indicated  that  you  are  interested  in  becoming  involved,  or  have   some  new  ideas  that  you  want  to  add  to  the  mix,  please  do  not  hesitate  to  be  in  touch. Clearly,  we  sBll  have  a  lot  to  think  about.  And  indeed,  this  may  at  first  seem  a  daunBng  task.  But  the   wealth  of  ideas  and  insights  provided  by  the  conference,  to  say  nothing  of  the  high  quality,  originality,   and  simple  awesomeness  of  everyone’s  contribuBons  not  only  makes  this  task  seem  a  liAle  less   inBmidaBng,  but  also  guarantees  that  the  journey  is  going  to  be  an  exhilaraBng,  meaningful,  and  exciBng   one  to  take.  It  won’t  be  easy,  but  with  the  conBnuing  parBcipaBon  and  input  from  people  such  as  you,   it’s  preAy  clear  that  we  can  make  a  significant  and  posiBve  contribuBon.   So  thanks  again  for  a  great  conference;  I  hope  that  you  enjoyed  yourself  as  much  as  we  did.  With  any   luck  the  discussions  and  conversaBons  that  your  took  part  in  a  month  ago  represent  but  the  first  few   steps  on  a  much  longer  and  even  more  fulfilling  collaboraBon.   UnBl  soon, The  Organizing  Commi/ee 2
  • 3. Designing the Platform The  plaYorm  design  break-­‐out  session  really  set  the  tone  for  the  enBre  day,  not  just  in  terms  of  the  great   ideas  and  fruiYul  discussions  that  it  comprised,  but  also  because  of  the  way  that  design  ideas  conBnued  to   pop  up  throughout  the  rest  of  the  day’s  sessions.  There  were  many  great  ideas,  which  have  already  helped   the  design  team  tremendously,  but  from  our  discussion  it  was  immediately  apparent  that  our  prioriBes   need  to  be: • Figuring  out  nature  and  the  role  of  the  user’s  profile,  and  the  extent  to  which  the  user’s  experience   will  be  personalized  to  their  specific  aAributes  (such  as  geographical  locaBon).  How  much   informaBon  will  users  need  to  provide  about  themselves  and  to  what  extent  and  in  what  ways  will   their  acBvity  accumulate  and  generate  a  ‘thick’  profile?  Some  exciBng  features  that  were  suggested   included  the  ability  to  track  one’s  own  acBvity  on  the  site  over  Bme  to  see  how  one’s  views  and   parBcipaBon  had  evolved,  as  well  as  the  possibility  of  forming  geographically-­‐based  communiBes   hosted  or  enabled  in  some  way  by  the  plaYorm. • Determining  how  narrowly  we  want  to  target  our  audience  and  how  we  ensure  that  the  site  is   interesBng  and  accessible  to  all  the  different  classes  of  potenBal  users  that  would  exist  within  this   targeted  grouping. • Figuring  out  how  we  want  the  network  of  moderators  to  interact  with  a  discussion  once  it  has   started.  To  what  extent  do  we  want  conversaBons  to  develop  organically  and  to  what  extent  do  we   want  the  network  to  shape,  guide,  and  moderate  these  discussions?  One  idea  that  consensus   seemed  to  coalesce  around  had  moderators  helping  to  guide  the  conversaBon  at  various  intervals   by  providing  summaries  of  the  discussion  up  to  that  point  and  suggesBng  new  dimensions  along   which  the  discussion  could  conBnue. • Ensuring  that  the  plaYorm  is  fun  and  the  interface  is  gripping,  even  exciBng.  People  were  keen  for   the  plaYorm  to  support  a  variety  of  media,  from  pictures,  to  interacBve  infographics,  to  videos,  to   audio,  to  ‘games’  such  as  a  tax  calculator  that  would  calculate  how  much  tax  you  would  need  to  pay   to  sustain  certain  policy  choices. Example  of  designed  mockup  plaYorm3
  • 4. Building the Network One  idea  that  emerged  from  the  discussion  of  the  nature  and  role  of  the  network  and  which  seemed  to   command  a  strong  consensus  concerned  how  the  network,  o^en  idenBfied  funcBonally  as  the  plaYorm   moderators,  should  not  be  conceptualized  as  a  group  that  was  walled-­‐off  from  the  general  community  of   users.  Rather,  conferees  seemed  to  support  the  idea  that  moderators  would  simply  represent  the  highest   level  of  a  graduated  scheme  for  parBcipaBon  that  was  open  and  permeable  according  to  clearly   idenBfied  levels  of  involvement  and  demonstrated  merit.  Other  key  take-­‐away  points  were  as  follows: • At  its  best,  many  conferees  saw  the  network  as  acBng  as  a  contact  bank  of  high  quality  and  interesBng   people  that  could  be  drawn  upon  if  anyone  in  the  network  required  expert  assistance  in  a  parBcular   area.  This  assistance  could  take  many  forms,  from  finding  an  expert  in  an  unfamiliar  field,  to  assistance   in  reviewing  an  academic  paper,  to  help  finding  a  job. • May  felt  that  the  network  should  not  only  include  puang  things  into  the  project,  such  as  helping  to   provide  content,  but  should  also  help  enrich  the  lives  of  its  members.  One  idea  that  was  popular  was   the  possibility  of  professional  development  acBviBes  such  as  decentralized  region-­‐specific  weekend   retreats  for  members  of  the  network  that  would  both  allow  members  to  improve  their  skill  sets,  but   also  provide  opportuniBes  to  socialize  and  network. • A  strong  consensus  also  formed  around  the  idea  that  in  addiBon  to  providing  benefits  to  the   membership,  the  network  also  needed  to  provide  members  with  opportuniBes  for  meaningful   parBcipaBon  in  the  project  and  the  ability  to  point  to  an  output  that  people  could  be  proud  of  having   parBcipated  in  creaBng.4
  • 5. Starting the Conversation In  the  a^ernoon,  the  conferees  divided  into  three  groups  to  engage  in  substanBve  discussions  focused   on  iniBaBng  the  content  generaBon  aspect  of  the  project.  In  addiBon  to  the  large  amount  of  substanBve   output  from  these  sessions,  the  large  number  of  high  quality,  generalizable  ideas  concerning  how  the   types  of  posiBve  conversaBons  we  are  interested  in  fostering  might  be  built  were  also  produced. Home  or  Hospital? We  asked  the  quesBon:  Should  health  care  be  more  in  the  home  or  the  hospital? The  key  points  that  emerged  from  our  conversaBons  were  as  follows: • In  order  for  a  useful  and  posiBve  conversaBon  to  take  place,  the  quesBon  needs  to  be  clear  and   specific;  this  quesBon  is  probably  too  broad  to  support  a  good  conversaBon  on  its  own,  and   would  likely  require  further  specificaBon  through  addiBonal  sub-­‐quesBons.  For  example:  ‘Should   family  doctors  make  house  calls  again?’;  or  ‘What  role  can  telemedicine  play  in  promoBng  health   care  closer  to  people’s  homes?’  would  probably  serve  as  beAer  conversaBon  sparks.   • The  moBvaBon  for  the  quesBon  is  also  essenBal:  we  need  to  be  able  to  provide  a  jusBficaBon  for   why  we  think  that  this  issue  is  worth  talking  about,  that  is  we  need  to  link  it  to  the  wider  world. • Figuring  out  how  experts  and  non-­‐experts  are  going  to  be  involved  in  the  conversaBon,  and  what   the  differences  between  these  involvements  should  be,  is  going  to  be  a  key  quesBon  that  we   need  to  answer.  In  terms  of  preparing/structuring  the  conversaBon,  having  people  in  the  room   who  are  experts  is  crucial,  but  figuring  out  how  they  can  parBcipate  without  turning-­‐off  non-­‐ experts  in  the  actual  conversaBon  as  it  develops  is  going  to  be  an  important  challenge. • Perhaps  due  to  the  high  level  of  issue  experBse  present  in  this  discussion  group,  the  level  of   actual  conversaBon  planning  was  probably  the  most  advanced  with  the  following  conversaBon   plan  being  the  result: o Begin  with  a  basic  set  of  definiBons  of  terms  on  which  to  base  the  discussion,  but  also   provide  space  for  those  who  are  interested  to  drill  down  further. o Follow  this  with  a  contextualizaBon  of  home  care  in  the  larger  health  system  through  the   use  of  an  infographic  depicBng  all  of  the  places  healthcare  is  delivered,  with  size  being   used  to  depict  differences  in  expenditure  or  number  of  paBent  visits,  for  example.   o Provide  some  historical  context  that  helps  to  show  why  things  are  the  way  they  currently   are,  thereby  providing  a  foundaBon  for  discussion  of  reform  and  the  future.5
  • 6. o Also  provide  a  simple  and  easily  accessible  comparison  -­‐  perhaps  in  a  table  -­‐  of  the  ways   in  which  care  is  delivered  at  home  vs.  in  a  hospital. o Describe  currently  exisBng  policies  and  iniBaBves;  this  would  probably  have  to  be   regional  in  nature. o Provide  differenBated  explanaBons  for  why  this  quesBon  is  important  pitched  at  the   various  affected  groups  (differenBated  by  age  for  example). o Provide  a  glossary  of  commonly  used  terms. Aboriginals  and  Poverty We  asked  the  quesBon:  Aboriginal  Canadians  are,  on  average,  poorer  than  the  average  Canadian.  What,   if  anything,  should  be  done  to  help  ameliorate  this  disparity? The  key  points  that  emerged  from  this  conversaBon,  and  which  were  not  already  described  above,  were   as  follows: • The  need  for  well  presented,  well  researched,  basic  background  informaBon  that  can  equip   someone  who  knows  nothing  specific  about  the  issue  with  the  tools  they  need  to  feel   comfortable  becoming  involved  in  the  discussion.  For  example,  when  we  say  that  aboriginals   tend  to  be  poorer  than  the  average  Canadian,  what  does  this  mean  in  actual  numbers;  how   much  poorer?  Are  there  important  differences  between  groups  within  the  ‘aboriginal’   community?  Having  a  set  of  standardized  conversaBon  components,  like  ‘DefiniBons’  which   users  can  depend  on  will  likely  be  very  helpful  and  provide  unity  across  the  plaYorm. • The  need  to  idenBfy  the  key  actors,  terms,  concepts,  debates,  and  controversies  that  exist  in  this   parBcular  discussion  and  present  them  succinctly  and  clearly  so  that  people  can  quickly  feel  well   and  comfortably  situated  in  the  discussion.  For  example,  what  does  the  term  ‘status  Indian’   mean?  What  are  some  of  the  answers  that  already  exist  as  to  why  aboriginals  tend  to  be  poorer?   Are  there  disagreements  on  this?  What  are  they? • The  need  to  take  a  global  view  of  these  quesBons  as  well  as  a  local/Canadian  one.  Are  there   analogous  situaBons  in  other  countries?  To  what  extent  do  they  resemble  what  is  happening  in   Canada?  How  are  they  similar  and  how  are  they  different,  and  what  can  we  learn  from  these   situaBons  that  might  be  useful  for  our  discussions  here? • Is  this  even  the  right  quesBon  to  be  asking?  Are  there  other  ways  of  phrasing  the  quesBon  that   captures  the  same  essence  but  provides  a  different  focus?  How  can  these  other  possible  6
  • 7. quesBons  help  us  to  situate  our  discussion  of  this  quesBon  and  its  implicaBons  in  a  wider   discussion?  For  example,  is  income  the  right  metric  to  be  worried  about  when  discussing  the   disadvantaged  status  of  aboriginal  peoples  in  Canada?  Would  access  to  educaBon  or  health  care   be  beAer? • In  this  case,  it  is  especially  important  to  be  aware  of  the  need  to  take  account  of  the  perspecBves   of  those  individuals  and  groups  who  are  the  subject  of  the  discussion.  How  would  aboriginals   answer  this  quesBon?  Would  it  even  be  an  important  quesBon  to  them,  or  would  they  have   other  prioriBes?  More  generally,  we  need  to  think  about  how  we  can  incorporate  the   perspecBves  of  stakeholders  without  becoming  beholden/dominated  by  their  perspecBves. Canada  Among  Na8ons We  asked  the  quesBon:  What  should  be  Canada’s  role  in  internaConal  poliCcs?  What  changes,  if  any,  do   we  need  to  make  in  order  to  be  able  to  perform  this  role? The  key  points  that  emerged  from  this  conversaBon,  and  which  were  not  already  described  above,  were   as  follows: • In  order  to  draw  people  into  a  conversaBon,  it  needs  an  easily  understandable,  enBcing,   interesBng,  and  possibly  controversial  ‘hook’.  For  example,  in  the  case  of  this  quesBon,  a  less   general  sub-­‐quesBon  such  as  Should  Canada  Cghten  its  immigraCon  policy,  might  be  a  good  way   of  making  this  topic  more  immediately  interesBng  and  gripping.  At  the  same  Bme,  such  a   framing  exercise  necessarily  biases  a  conversaBon  and  we  need  to  be  careful  in  how  we  do  so. • We  need  to  be  cognizant  that  conversaBons  take  place  along  a  number  of  different  dimensions.   Some  conversaBons  are  factual  ones  in  which  informaBon  is  exchanged,  explained,  quesBoned,   understood,  taken  apart  and  put  back  together.  In  other  cases,  conversaBons  are  normaBve   exchanges  in  which  a  parBcular  opinion  about  the  way  the  world  should  be  is  debated  and   potenBally  counterpoised  with  another.  Recognizing  this  difference  is  a  key  way  of  helping  foster   good  examples  of  both  types  of  conversaBons. • In  the  case  of  quesBons  about  immigraBon  policy,  we  should  try  and  provide  as  much  baseline   factual  informaBon  as  possible  to  help  enrich  the  opportuniBes  for  individuals  to  learn  and  build   their  conversaBons.  Providing  informaBon  on  what  Canada’s  current  immigraBon  policy  is,  and   where  it  has  come  from,  are  the  types  of  informaBon  we  want  to  provide. • Similarly,  for  normaBve  conversaBons,  it  is  important  that  we  provide  users  with  the  various   different  proposals  that  exist  already  in  the  world,  and  background  informaBon  about  how  these   proposals  are  jusBfied,  where  they  come  from,  and  what  assumpBons  and  informaBon  have   inspired  them.  In  both  normaBve  and  factual  cases,  it  is  probably  a  good  idea  to  make  the  7
  • 8. accumulaBon  and  ediBng  of  this  informaBon  at  least  parBally  a  user-­‐generated  project  in  which   members  can  take  part  to  extents  that  are  perhaps  dependent  on  their  level  of  involvement. • Making  the  plaYorm  responsive  to  the  user  community  was  idenBfied  as  being  a  key  design   feature,  but  it  is  also  important  to  recognize  that  this  only  works  if  users  are  involved.  As  a  group   we  need  to  answer  the  quesBon:  What  would  it  take  to  get  you  to  do  the  things  we  are  hoping   that  these  potenBal  users  will  do.  Answering  this  quesBon  will  be  key  to  our  success.  Some  ideas   on  potenBal  answers  include  building  a  person’s  public  and  professional  profile,  being  involved   in  a  project  that  produces  posiBve  change,  and  potenBally  encouraging,  supporBng  individuals   who  become  inspired  on  the  plaYorm  to  start  their  own  iniBaBves  in  the  real  world.   Spark  Canada  2011  Conference  A/endants.    LeJ  to  right:  Peter  Gill,  Nicholas  Chesterley,  Kayli  Johnson,   Gillian  Langor,  Lise/e  Yorke,  Emma  Preston,  Annick  Routhier-­‐Labadie,  Ryan  Hogarth,  Michael  Urban,   Nithum  Thain,  Erik  Eastaugh,  Soushiant  Zanganehpour,  ChrisCne  Cheng,  Amanda  Clarke,  Amol  Verma,   and  Liliane  Chamas.  Not  in  picture:  Jaspreet  Khangura,  Ramya  Ravishankar,  Zinta  Zommers8